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7 farm economic principles

Seven time-tested truths to succeed in today's economics.

David Kohl

October 9, 2017

3 Min Read

This week’s article is a tribute to one lender completing his third year at the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado; Opie.  Two decades earlier, I gave him the nickname of “Opie” because of his resemblance to the character in The Andy Griffith Show that aired in the 1960s television. At that time, Opie was attending The Banking School in Texas hosted by Texas A&M University with Dr. Danny Klinefelter and me  I recently saw my friend, Opie, in Colorado where he presented seven principles, many he learned in the Texas class long ago, that have proven most beneficial to his career as an agricultural lender. Let’s examine some of his time-tested truths. 

 Finish school

When in Texas 20 years ago, this lender was debating whether to finish college. He stated his choice to finish his degree was not only beneficial, but crucial in developing a network and foundation for his career.

 Working capital

Maintaining working capital is another predominant principle in Opie’s career. It is interesting that even 20 years ago the professors in the Texas Banking School stressed this element because at that time, working capital was still a foreign concept for many in farming and agricultural lending. Yet, this financial principle is often the difference between success and failure, especially in today’s economics.


Opie warned, “Don’t be afraid to ask for more collateral. And if you think you have enough, get more!” This is certainly a time-tested principle, particularly in periods of financial losses and asset value declines like many are experiencing today.   

 Stay with the industry

In Texas 20 years ago, both Dr. Klinefelter and I stressed the coming need for experienced agricultural lenders. Now, with today’s baby boomers retiring in numbers, my friend, Opie, has the experience to naturally transition into a leadership and mentoring role for young lenders.  

 Marketing plans

Another principle still applicable today is the volatility in price, cost, and income extremes. Of course, volatility can be your friend if you develop and execute a logical marketing and risk management plan. However, volatility can also become your foe, resulting in emotional based decisions, if you there is no plan to use in executing the logic.

 Ask questions

Opie shared that questioning continues to be an important principle in his lending career. He said, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Others are probably thinking the same thing.” Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, and with different areas of expertise. Remember that success in life is all about the people.

 Open, direct dialogue

The key to success is often building relationships with transparency. Open lines of communication are essential for a good working relationship, and often, it is the lender that must maintain contact with the customer and ensure the spouse or partner remains engaged.   

 At the conclusion of the Colorado class, it was clear that Opie was committed to lifelong learning, and had become a leader in his industry and for the future.  I was very proud of him as a student and as a valuable part of today’s agricultural lending expertise. 

About the Author(s)

David Kohl

Contributing Writer, Corn+Soybean Digest

Dr. Dave Kohl is an academic Hall of Famer in the College of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. Dr. Kohl has keen insight into the agriculture industry gained through extensive travel, research, and involvement in ag businesses. He has traveled over 10 million miles; conducted more than 7,000 presentations; and published more than 2,500 articles in his career. Dr. Kohl’s wisdom and engagement with all levels of the industry provide a unique perspective into future trends.

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